About Victorian Jewelry

Victorian Period - 1835 to 1890

Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, ruling Great Britain until her death in 1901. As the first female monarch in over a century, Victoria became the predominant trendsetter for women of her time. In general, her reign was one of peace and prosperity. The Industrial Revolution furthered rapid social and economic change. A series of International Expositions begun in 1851 spread technological and stylistic innovations worldwide. The emerging middle class created a new demand for jewelry, which for the first time began to be made in large quantities for the mass market.

Fashions were rather voluminous throughout the period. Full skirts, long sleeves and lace collars dominated the early decades. As women became more active (in both work and leisure) towards the end of the century, their dress became more tailored. Similarly, jewelry reached massive proportions during the 1860s and 70s, but became lighter and more delicate in later years.

Sentimental Themes: Victoria's romantic nature, love for her husband and devotion to her children inspired a profusion of sentimental motifs in jewelry, such as hearts, bows, flowers, birds, and romantic sayings. Jewelry made from the hair of a loved one (living or deceased) was particularly popular.

Victorian Crescent Moon Brooch done in seed pearls and rose goldVictorian Crescent Moon Brooch done in seed pearls and rose gold.

Semi-precious Stones: Semi-precious stones were used to keep jewelry made for the mass market affordable. Especially popular were garnet, amethyst, coral, turquoise, seed pearls and opals (one of Victoria's favorite stones).

Intricate Goldwork: Gold became less expensive to work with as new sources were discovered, and standards were relaxed (after 1854, jewelry could be made in 9, 12 and 15K, rather than just 18K). Jewelers experimented with techniques to change the look and texture of gold, like granulation, chasing, engraving and filigree.

Diamonds: Large diamond deposits were discovered in 1867, greatly increasing their accessiblity and affordability. Sparkling, diamond-set jewelry became especially desirable after the introduction of electric lighting in the 1880s.

Nature Motifs: Victorians' penchant for nature and gardening is reflected in the motifs of their jewelry. Particularly prevalent were flowers, considered highly symbolic, and serpents (a favorite motif of Victoria's, representing eternity, wisdom and good luck).

Mourning Jewelry: The unexpected death of Victoria's husband Albert in 1861 sent her, and her entire nation, into mourning. Consequently, jewelry of black enamel, jet and onyx was in high demand during the latter part of the century.

Victorian and Antique Jewelry Today
Antique jewelry from this time period contains antique diamonds such as rose cut, Old Mine Cut, cushion cut and Old European Cut diamonds. It was during this era that the Tiffany engagement ring setting was introduced. Victorian jewelry is usually made of yellow gold or rose gold, with colorful gemstones.

Antique jewelry from the Victorian era is becoming scarce on the market. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, brooches and rings may still be found at some antique and estate jewelry stores. The collectibility of Victorian jewelry continues to increase with time.

Antique Victorian Cameo Antique Victorian Cameo of the Goddess Diana/Artemis c.1860-70


Antique Bohemian Garnet Butterfly BroochGarnet jewelry, prolific during the Victorian era, has long been a favorite of antique jewelry lovers. These older garnets may also be referred to as Bohemian garnets because of their origin.
Bohemian garnets were set in both low and high karat gold, and sometimes silver. Garnets used in antique jewelry can be faceted or cabochon cut. Faceted Victorian garnets are usually rose cut, which means they are faceted bluntly compared to the sharp facets of today’s gemstones. This form of faceting generally predates the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s.

Victorian garnets have a deep, rich color in comparison to red garnets being mined today, which oftentimes have a lighter tone and a rusty hue. This is an important factor to keep in mind when distinguishing true Victorian garnet jewelry from later Victorian revival pieces. It’s also important to remember that deep red garnets have been simulated in costume jewelry through the decades in Victorian revival pieces made with glass stones. More information about Antique Bohemian Garnet Jewelry.

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